“I feel flat,” I tried to explain to my friend Jerry the day after I’d seen the old hotel. “I want adventure. I want to accomplish something. I want to live in a fishing village at the edge of the continent. Make mistakes and recover from them. Depend on myself. See what I can do.”
Jerry’s laugh was without amusement. “No one leaves their husband, their kids, their job because of flatness. That’s self-indulgent, Virginia. Adolescent. A luxury most of us cannot afford.”
This exchange encapsulates the tension running throughout Marlene Lee's THE ABSENT WOMAN. Seeking a fulfillment she hasn't found in her marriage, she leaves her husband and two boys and moves to Hilliard, a fishing village north of Seattle. She subleases an apartment in a largely empty, converted hotel from a woman who left Hilliard in a rush, and the woman's belongings and reasons for leaving haunt Virginia as she tries to build a new life.